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House probe on Manila Bay reclamation project sought

By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
October 27, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - Two Mindanao congressmen want the House of Representatives to look into the proposed reclamation of 175 hectares in Manila Bay.

Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and his brother Maximo, who represents the party-list group Abante Mindanao, proposed the inquiry in Resolution 1558.

They said the reclamation site, which is the Las Piñas-Parañaque coastal lagoon, consists of salt marshes, tidal areas and three mangrove-clad islands. The area serves as home or resting area for dozens of bird species, including the globally threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret, they added.

The congressmen said former President Arroyo signed Executive Order 1412 in 2007, which declared the coastal lagoon as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area and banned activities that would alter or change its ecologically vital role as bird sanctuary.

“EO 1412 is the very law that concerned government agencies are planning to violate by reclaiming the area and hundreds of hectares more in front of the sanctuary to create a new business center,” they said.

The Rodriguez brothers named the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) as the principal proponent of the project, but that there are several unnamed investors interested in it.

“While the PRA insists on the development of the area, opponents of the planned P14-billion project fear that although most of the coastal lagoon would initially remain intact, the bird sanctuary would be left largely cut off from Manila Bay,” they said.

They cited a study made by Rey Aguinaldo, a US-trained biologist who manages coastal lagoons for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who warned authorities that the Las Piñas-Parañaque lagoon would eventually dry up.

They also noted that a highway linking the planned business center with the rest of Metro Manila would cut through the mangroves, while about 15 percent of an island would be removed for a drainage canal.

“Aside from these issues, one most possible victim of this project would be the Philippine duck, whose 80-strong Manila colony, making up nearly two percent of the known population of the species, would be extinguished if their habitat is destroyed,” they said.

Las Piñas and Parañaque residents and bird watchers and organizations concerned with ecological balance are opposing the reclamation plan.